Decade One

November 18, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Posted in Decade One | Leave a comment

I’m too lazy to add all of my movie reviews film by film.  So, for the years 2000 – 2010, I will include them all here and keep the format I used at the time each was published.  Enjoy.  Or don’t.

2010

November 18, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Posted in Decade One | Leave a comment

This year, I saw 57 films.  Overall, how do I compare this year to other ones?  Though most of the movies I really enjoyed, came in the final months (final weeks even) of the year, I think this year stacks up well with other strong movie years.  None of these films was a Mysterious Skin, Lost in Translation, Memento, Shortbus, or Waltz With Bashir.  However, the total list of films I loved this year is stronger than most years top movies overall (with the exception of banner years like 2005).

The Movies I Really Loved:

NOTE: Honestly, all of the top 5 films on my list could arguably be in my #1 spot and I think they all were at some point in the forming of this list, so I’m not going to rank them as in previous years.  They are very similar films, in that they show fragile people trying to find some way to belong and succeed in the world.  They also all featured amazing performances.  You decide which one was best.

Rabbit Hole (54) – Once again, a John Cameron Mitchell films tops my list.  While I don’t love this movie like I did “Shortbus” or “Hedwig,” I was really moved by it.  Mitchell is sort of the anti-Todd Solondz and I really love the way he can take films that would normally be nihilistic or cynical and finds a way to express optimism and dignity underneath all the human frailty.  A warning though, for those of you with kids: as touching and hopeful as I felt this film was, it is about parents dealing with the sudden death of their 7 year old boy.  It is heart-wrenching in parts.

Blue Valentine (52) – This film shines because of the masterful, naturalistic acting of both Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling.  Apparently, they were given a basic concept about where each scene was supposed to go and then allowed to improvise their way there.  The results are incredibly raw, fraught with desperation and devastating.  This film is not about the story (which is one we have seen a hundred times before), it’s about watching those two actors build and tear down a relationship together.

The Kids Are Alright (23) – I strongly recommend this movie just for Annette Bening’s performance.  I loved her relationship with Julian Moore and their children.  The movie was far from perfect and I found some parts contrived or too cutesy.   But, in the end, I found the family really endearing and believable.

The Fighter (50) – Again, some amazing performances.  In particular, I loved Melissa Leo as the boys’ mother (she was also amazing in “FrozenRiver” a couple of years ago).  It is true that you know exactly where this story is going, especially because it is a true story (who makes a movie of the guy who couldn’t make a comeback?), however, that made it no less interesting.  And the fight scenes were very well done; I really got a sense of the craft and strategies involved in boxing.

Winter’s Bone (20) – Bleak.  Do not see this movie as a pick-me-up.  It’s not “The Road” bleak but sure ain’t “Little Miss Sunshine.”  We’ve seen a lot of films about various disenfranchised groups in this country (poor African Americans, Gays & Lesbians, etc) but this is the first film I remember seeing that attempts to show how the rural, white poor live in this country (Seriously, don’t even say “Deliverance”).  I have no idea if this is an accurate portrayal of what life is like for large portions of our country, but I know people were shocked by “Precious” and I see versions of that every day.  If this movie even rings close to true, then I’m glad to have peered into a world I have no idea about.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (29) – And now for something completely different… This movie is very much the opposite of the last five: odd, silly, tongue-in-cheek, impossibly self-involved and referential, loud, brash and unbelievably funny.  This is the movie for the generation after mine (Generation Y, I believe).  Many of the films of my generation were very much an inside joke for those of us who grew up glued to our 70s & 80s televisions.  This film is an inside joke for those who grew up glued to their Nintendos and Gameboys.  It’s pace, editing and overall aesthetic owe more to those games than to the genre of film.  It was fascinating to watch because I think we’ll be seeing more films like this.

The Illusionist (53) – This film was truly, truly beautiful, sweet and melancholy.  Animated beautifully with hand-painted scenes of France, Scotland and England by the makers of “The Triplets of Belleville.”  Every scene is gorgeous, detailed and filled with mood.  The film was made based on a story by Jacques Tati, the French silent film star.  As such, the film has virtually no speaking; there are a few French words and all the people speaking English speak in a garbled nonsense because the lead character cannot speak English and does not understand them. However, you understand everything being communicated through mime and every emotion is so present on each face.  Tati wrote the script shortly before appearing in his 1958 film, “Mon Oncle.”  In tribute to him, a portion of that film is shown during this movie and mirrored in the story line.  The scene is brilliantly done.  Allegedly, the story was written as an apology to his oldest daughter.  The movie is funny, touching and sad.  I really loved everything about it.

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (32) – This movie and the next one are parts II and I, respectively, of a very long French film about their famous street thug, media hound and psychopath, Jacques Mesrine.  He went on a spree of bank robberies, killings and unbelievable prison break-outs during the 1970s.  The lead performance by Vincent Cassel (also seen in “Black Swan”) is hypnotic.  The movies are violent but also beautifully directed.  Each has its own slightly different style and I put this one at the top of the list only because I liked its style ever so slightly better.  However, the opening scene of move #1: Killer Instinct, is brilliantly done.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct (31) – See above.

Waiting for Superman (41) – This documentary on our failing public school systems was difficult for me to watch.  Almost too difficult.  It just hit too close to home.  However, this is one of the most important issues we face in this country and we need to think honestly about solutions.  Everyone should see this movie.

Social Network (37) – I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said.  Aaron Sorkin is a genius writer.  His command of language and his mastery of the biting quip (so present in “The West Wing”) is in full force here.  The movie is much funnier and much much more entertaining than a movie about nerd billionaires should be (think “Pirates of Silicon Valley”).

Animal Kingdom (28) – If you want to get your creep on, this is the film for you.   It’s about an Australian crime family, one son’s attempt to get out while he is young and alive and every other family member’s attempt to screw it all up.  Jacki Weaver (nominated for a Golden Globe) was brilliant as the more-evil-than-fuck mother of the clan.  And, Ben Mendelsohn (who has gone totally unnoticed) was even better at playing her much-much-more-evil-than-fuck oldest son, Pope.  It had me squirming in my seat, not so much for the violence as for the tension.

Black Swan (44) – Again, a much hyped film that I don’t think I need to say much more about.  Natalie Portman is great in her role as the obsessed and falling apart dancer.  Mila Kunis shocked me (shocked, I tell you!) with her acting talent.   What has she been doing since “That 70s Show?”  I hope we see more of her.  Everyone else has fine performances.  The dancing is beautiful.  I know some disagree, but I liked the blurring of reality/fantasy (contrived as it may have been) because it created a dream like quality for the whole film that allowed the final scene to work.  Also, the most nerve-wracking finger-nail clipping I have ever watched.

Un Prophete (7) – This was the first film of the year that I really enjoyed.  It’s about a Frenchman who goes to prison for a while; he enters naïve and exits a very different person.  I thought the young actor did a great job of creating that transformation.  Most of the strength of the movie lay in seeing that character change in such a believable way.

Mother (10) – Another bad mother; there are a lot of them this year (“Mother,” “Black Swan,” “Animal Kingdom,” “The Fighter,” “Winter’s Bone”).  I think this one takes the cake.  A South Korean film about a mentally handicapped man accused of a crime and his mother’s determination to get him off, guilty or not.  Oh, and she is the queen of the blank faced, vacant stare. Creepy.

Company Men (56) – This film was a pleasant surprise.  I was hesitant to see it; I thought it had too big a cast (Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, Chris Cooper, Craig T Nelson) to be anything but trite, superficial and feel-good.  However, I thought it really looked into the American male psyche and explored how we deal with the loss of status, ego and manhood that we associate with employment.  It was never revelatory (and it did turn out to be a bit feel-good) but it felt honest and touching in parts.

True Grit (47) – Last on my list of movies I loved, this one squeaks in as a tip to the Cohens.  Don’t’ get me wrong, it is a good movie, maybe even a really good one.  It was funnier than I expected, really well acted (especially by Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges), and beautifully shot.  However, it was not “No Country For Old Men,” “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,”…  Of course, it was also not “Burn Before Reading” or “The Ladykillers.”  It was a thoroughly middle of the road Cohen film.  Am I being too hard on it?

 

The Movies I Liked A Lot:

 

The Secret In Their Eyes (13) – A very well done Argentinean noir film.  Atmospheric, well-shot, tense and funny at times.  Oh, and of course, a completely nihilistic view of the world.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (18) – A brilliant documentary by Banksy, the famous graffiti artist.  It is interesting, funny and provocative.  Who is really being filmed here?  And who is Mr Brainwash, exactly?  And who is really getting brainwashed?

The King’s Speech (51) – Better than I thought it could possibly be.  Funnier.  More interesting.  I was more touched than I thought I’d be (though not THAT touched).  All the worst parts were in the commercials.

Howl (35) – Really this is James Franco’s best film this year.  Really.  He completely becomes Ginesburg and it is great fun to watch.  But, be warned, the vast majority of the poem is animated on screen while he is reading it and, if you are unaware, it is graphically sexual.  So, if you don’t like the idea of giant, thrusting, animated penises…

127 Hours (42) – Yeah, he was good in this, too.  I just think it was a bit over-hyped and I wasn’t as pulled in by Franco’s performance here, I’m not sure why.  Which isn’t to say that I did not like the film, I actually liked it quite a bit.  I was impressed by how much energy and motion the film was able to have for spending most of it’s time in such a confined space.

Let Me In (36) – The remake of “Let the Right One In,” the 2008 Swedish vampire film that ranked #11 on my list that year.  Actually, I think both versions have strengths over each other.  Ironically, I think that the more amateurish acting in the Swedish version actually helped and hurt it.  The boy in that film was not nearly as believable or engaging as in this American version.  However, the lack of acting skills in the girl vampire led to her being less emotive and therefore creepier.  The American girl was too warm and engaging.  Both movies created a good, creepy aesthetic (with maybe the Swedish one being slightly better).  The American version did a much better job with the “father” character, including a truly brilliant car scene (one of the best scenes in any movie this year).  But the swimming pool scene was better in the Swedish version (the overall lower production values of that film, as a whole, made the final scene much more shocking).  In the end, why was that film so much higher on my list than this one?  Because I saw it first, so it just had a greater impact.  Btw- don’t read the book.  It is truly, truly, truly too fucking creepy and sick.

Inception (24) – By far, the best of the blockbuster films this year.  Actually, I’d go so far as to say that, for the genre, it is an excellent film.  Probably the best I have seen in years.  It was well shot, fast paced, had compelling special effects, was brilliantly edited, and had an ending that is guaranteed to have folks arguing with their friends.  Is he or isn’t he?

Cairo Time (30) – What a sweet, simple movie.  Two people falling in love in Cairo.  Gorgeous people and really gorgeous scenery.  Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig (from DS9, all you Trek geeks) do a great job of underplaying their romance, making it all the more believable and suitable to this laconic, understated movie.

 

The Movies I’m Glad I Saw:

 

Another Year (55) – My least favorite movie by director, Mike Leigh (“Secrets & Lies,” “Vera Drake,” “Happy-Go-Lucky”).  Sweet, well acted but it didn’t really take me anywhere.

Shutter Island (2) – This film had a nice atmosphere and a perfect location.  Great costumes, great sets and DiCaprio did a good job of playing his character (but, of course, this is the character people love him to play- the broken, troubled but inherently decent man).  It was creepy, tense and had good build up.  But the big reveal was just too silly to take seriously.

Nowhere Boy (38) – A nice story about the young John Lennon.  Interesting to the degree that it was true.  A really nice acting job but an up and coming British actor, Aaron Johnson (also seen this year in the dreadful “Kick-Ass”).

Get Low (26) – A reasonably entertaining vehicle for Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray to show off their acting chops.  Lucas Black (remember him?  The “Sling Blade” kid) gets to go along for the ride.

The Town (40) – Ben Affleck is at it again.  He wrote, directed and starred in this movie (sound familiar?) about a Boston townie tryin’ to go straight but who just can’t pull away from his bad news best friend, who (of course) he owes his life to.  Well acted, especially by Jeremy Renner (“Hurt Locker”).  The plot moves along quickly, if painfully obviously.  Affleck has a good eye for the flavor and rhythm of Boston’s neighborhoods and that is probably the best thing about this film.  Everything else is by the book.

Restrepo (57) – The harrowing documentary about the deployment of the Army’s Airborne Brigade’s 2nd platoon of Company B into the deadly Kornegal Valley in Afghanistan.  Within minutes of the movie starting, Medic Juan Restrepo is dead.  The rest of the documentary deals with how his platoon mates handle that, and other losses, and how they manage to erect and try to maintain Outpost Restrepo in their battle against the Taliban.

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows (43) – Another HP movie.  This one was better than most but not as good as the best (#3).  It had a nice aesthetic but the story felt disjointed and like a giant set-up (which it was) for the last one.  That said, it plays that role admirably and raises anticipations for Part II.

Patrik, 1.5 (27) – A cute Swedish film about a gay couple who accidentally adopt a homophobic teenage delinquent (age 15) instead of an adorable infant (age 1.5).  Ooops.  Hilarity ensues.  Well, more like a few chuckles and lots of earnest “gay people are just like us” messages.  In the end, it was a sweet movie that was far more tolerable than a movie like that ought to be.

I Love You Phillip Morris (45) – I had waited 2 years for this comedy (based on a true story) about a man who discovers he is gay (Jim Carey), becomes a con man and meets the love of his life (Ewan McGregor) in prison.  Jail brakes and hijinks ensue.  In the end, it was far too much of a wacky Jim Carey vehicle for me to feel any connection to or caring about the characters.  It was the opposite of “Patrik, 1.5,” there was nothing earnest in this film.

Inside Job (39) – Documentary about the financial meltdown.  It is very well organized and puts all the information out there very clearly.  But it told me nothing that I didn’t already know.

Somewhere (49) – Sophia Coppola takes her art seriously and this is art.  “Somewhere” is her painstaking tribute to The Italian New Wave movement.  If you don’t like New Wave films (like “La Dolce Vita”) then do not bother with this one.  Nothing happens.  Nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing happens.  And it doesn’t happen really really slowly.  It is a brave movie for being so clearly inaccessible to a mainstream audience.  I don’t’ regret seeing it but don’t ever want to see it again.  Btw- not to be too picky but it kinda cheats on the whole New Wave thingy.  This film should be totally inert, without any movement in any direction for any character at all.  Yet, Stephen Dorf has a tiny, microscopic amount of momentum at the end of this film.

Toy Story 3 (16) – Yeah, it was cute.  Not as good as the first two but better than most animated movies.

The Stonewall Uprising (22) – Guess what this documentary is about.  Mildly interesting but I’ve seen it all before.

 

The Movies I Could Have Skipped:

 

The Ghost Writer (3) – So completely over hyped.  It did have some great tension at the beginning but had such a completely absurd revelation (really? Who the hell hides important secrets like that?!).  It was like an Encyclopedia Brown story.  Though, I will admit that the final scene is a great one.

The Karate Kid (15) – About as good as the first one.  Beautiful scenery.  Rousing.  Sweet.  Cute.  Inspiring.  That god-damned Smith family has it all.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (8) – One was enough for me (both of the books and movies).  That’s about enough bleakness and violence against women to get me through the whole year.

Never Let Me Go (34) – Based on the book that I only sort of liked (by “Remains of the Day” author, Kazuo Ishiguro).  The movie worked even less.  All the characters seemed so remote and detached from the injustice of their lives that it made it hard for me to care.  The story is supposed to be shocking but I felt nothing.  Not a good thing.

Joan Rivers – A Piece of Work (17) – This doc gave me an new appreciation for how needy comedians and how hard they have to work.  Beyond that, the film didn’t do much for me.  Far too little to laugh at.

Eat Pray Love (48) – It is exactly a Julie Roberts movie (I saw it on the plane and I doubt they had to edit a thing).

The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (33) – Animated movie about owls.  It could have been worse (see below).

Shrek Forever After (14) – It is time for this franchise to die.  It was funny once.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (49) – “In your world, you will have to know me by another name…”  That is just about as much Jesus talk as I can handle from a lion.

 

 

The Movies I Really Disliked:

There really isn’t anything that I want to say about most of these movies.  They were dumb.  I shouldn’t have bothered.

 

Iron Man 2 (12)

Alice In Wonderland (4) – I am sorry to say that I am getting a bit tired of Tim Burton (especially w/ Johnny in tow).  It’s all the same type of flashy wrapping paper covering an empty box.

Salt (46)

I Am Love (25) – What on earth did people see in this movie?  Couldn’t somebody please explain that to me?  And I love Tilda.

The Wolfman (1)

The Clash of the Titans (6)

Air Doll (11) – Japanese sex doll comes to life.  You’d think that’d be interesting, wouldn’t you?

Kick-Ass (9) – Read Roger Ebert’s review.  He is exactly right.  This is a dishonest and deeply cynical movie.

The Last Airbender (21)

Twilight Saga: Eclipse (19) – Please refer to last year’s review.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (5) – The kids didn’t even like this film. It also had the same girl from “Kick-Ass” and “Let Me In.”  School loner, psychopathic foul-mouthed superhero, child-corrupting vampire.  I have to keep my eye on her.

2009

November 18, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Posted in Decade One | Leave a comment

I can say that I enjoyed almost every film I saw this year.  This year I saw 63 films.  In 2006, I disliked more than a third of the films I saw.  This year I would only skip the bottom 11 films and none of them were as bad as my worst films of previous years.  There was nothing that I absolutely hated (like “Bottle Shock” or “300”).

Over the past 10 years of movie viewing (and reviewing), there are definitely years that were very strong for great films (2001, 2003, 2005, 2006 & 2008, specifically).  Ultimately, this was not one of those years and did not produce a single film that will end up on my best of the decade list.  Perhaps that is because this year has just passed and I have not had a chance to sit with any of these films.  Maybe you’ll see them on my best of the century list…

 

The Top 10:

 

1-       Still Walking (34) – This is the 2nd film I have seen by Japanese director, Hirokazu Koreeda.  The first film, “Nobody Knows,” was ranked #2 on my list in 2005.  I love the stillness of the film; it let’s moments unfold so realistically, with all their prolonged, awkward silences.  When something is revealed it’s devastating and you can feel the impact ripple through the rest of the film.  Nothing in this movie is trite, nothing trivialized, no emotion rings false.  I like many different types of films but I do love realism and Koreeda is a master of it.

2-       A Serious Man (40) – On the other hand… A Cohen Brothers’ film is many things but it is not realism (though they can tease you with the veneer of realism).  Their films have an epic quality to them, as though they are trying to say something big about LIFE.  A Serious Man feels like the expression of what it means to them to be Jewish in America.  It is visually rich, bawdy, slapstick, intentionally provocative, and sometimes deeply moving.  I know many people have accused it of stereotyping but I think the only real difference between a stereotype and an archetype is the respect you have for your characters.   Some may disagree but I think the Cohen’s love these people (well, the guys, at least).  And, it has an amazing ending.  Amazing.  One of the best I have ever seen.

3-       Precious (42) – This film is far from perfect.  Lee Daniels is a young director and his inexperience shows over and over in the framing of scenes, the heavy handed use of certain symbols, and in a lack of focus.  However, each character had such truth in her: the burned-out social worker, the earnest young teacher, each of her students, Precious herself and, of course, her mother.  They were all so real and so like people I have known.  The plot was heavy handed and overwrought at times.  Though I have known girls who have had every one of Precious’s experiences happen to her, the film might have felt more real had it not tried so hard to overwhelm.  In the end, this film is #3 for one reason: Mo’nique’s stunning performance; without a doubt one of the best I have ever seen.  Her final monologue is breathtaking.  I always considered Laura Linney’s monologue at the end of “MysticRiver” as one of my favorites but this blows hers away.

4-       The Road (44) – Another Cormac McCarthy laughfest.  If you can’t stomach bleak, don’t watch this film.  It is endless anxiety, fear, hopelessness and devastation.  And I loved every minute of it.  It could not work if it weren’t for the two lead actors, Viggo Mortensen and some young boy.  You can feel the constant anxiety and fear the boy has in every scene and his father’s desperate attempt to instill some hope, some reason to keep living.  It is touching and heart-wrenching.  In the end, the film works because it is a character study and both actors are up to the job.

5-       In The Loop (26) – This film would be the opposite of “The Road.”  It takes nothing seriously; it is outrageous, profane and laugh-out-loud funny.  However, you must have an appreciation for filthy, shocking humor.  If you don’t enjoy a line like, “Within your ‘purview’? Where do you think you are, some fucking regency costume drama? This is a government department, not some fucking Jane fucking Austen novel! Allow me to pop a jaunty little bonnet on your purview and ram it up your shitter with a lubricated horses cock” (said with a Scottish accent, no less), then this is not the movie for you.   FYI.

6-       The Hurt Locker (23) – My movie list this year appears to be about extremes: extreme anxiety or extreme stillness.  Well, this film manages to masterfully have both.  Its real brilliance lies in its ability to put you in the moment with the soldiers, tensely waiting for something to happen.  Will it?  Now?  Or now?  Or now?  Instead of fireballs, screaming, and gore, we are given long silences and tense waiting.  I have no idea if this is what war is ever like, but I love the fact that tension in this movie comes from nothing happening and not from everything happening at once, as it does in so many war films.

7-       Il Divo (12) – A visual and aural explosion.  I’m not sure how else to describe this Italian film about the rise and (sort of) fall of corrupt Italian Prime Minister and Senator for Life, Giulio Andreotti.  Besides putting forward a convincing argument for the failures of coalition governments, I’m not really sure I even followed much of the plot: bad men were doing bad things and getting away with it.  However, I could not take my eyes off the screen.  Some scenes were so beautifully framed, perfectly lighted, and with inspired music that it was like film as poetry.  I had to see it twice just to take it all in.  This story is irrelevant; it is all about the view.

8-       An Education (38) – I had to include this film in my top 10 based largely on Carey Mulligan’s performance.  She was so earnest and the feelings she felt were so genuinely present that it was a pleasure to watch her.  I can’t wait to see what she does next.  Alfred Molina was also brilliant as her father.  In a film that could be heartbreaking, in parts, he was a welcome comic relief who was able to bring a silly, slapstick sort of humor without disrupting the rhythm of what was, in the end, a very earnest the film.  Not an easy task.

9-       Zombieland (36) – Again, with the humor.  I just loved, loved, loved this film.  It was silly and over-the-top and had me laughing my ass off by the opening credits.  It’s not quite as good as “Shawn of the Dead” but it isn’t far off and you can never have too many zombie comedies.  Well, maybe you can.  But there is definitely room for two.

10-   The Lemon Tree (14) – This under-rated and largely ignored Palestinian film is a real gem.  It deals with the intrusion of an Israeli Minister’s home onto the lemon orchard that had been owed for generations by a Palestinian family.  The story focuses on the matriarch of that family, her struggle to save her orchard and her relationship with the minister’s wife.  This is a small movie telling a simple story, without adornment or fuss.  The two women and how they struggle with their circumstances make it worth watching.

 

Other Movies I Loved:

 

11-   Unmade Beds (9) – Very indie film from Argentinean director Alexis Dos Santos about a German boy looking for his long-lost father in London.  Amateur acting but very sweet and with some provocative images.  Similar to his last film, “Glue.”

12-   Anvil: The Story of Anvil (6) – A great documentary about the almost famous heavy metal band.  Touching and very funny.  It made me root for them.  In fact, it almost made me want to buy a heavy metal album.  Almost.

13-   A Single Man (49) – Based on the beautiful novel by Christopher Isherwood about a gay man dealing with the death of his lover.  The book is much better but you can hardly blame a movie for that.  Perhaps to his credit, first time director, Tom Ford, goes in a radically different direction than the book.  I think it works, as long as you let the movie stand on its own.  In other words, see the movie first.  It is visually gorgeous and every scene is lush and worth pausing just so you can enjoy it.  However, Ford struggles from the same inexperience Daniels does; he tends to be heavy handed in scenes, trying to milk emotions from the audience when he should rely on the stellar acting.  He also does this weird-ass thing with color, which gets so distracting and (again) heavy handed that I found myself laughing in serious scenes.  Not a good thing.

14-   La Nana (the Maid) (43) – A Chilean film about a woman who has given her life to being a maid for an upper middle class family. She is deeply unhappy and ready to explode but has no idea because she is so emotionally shut down.  The film is an interesting look at class issues in Chile.  The lead actress does a phenomenal job and she manages to do cruel things but you still root for her.  Nothing violent happens; this is not a Hollywood film.  You watch a woman struggling on the edge and you feel for her and everyone else around her.

15-   (500) Days of Summer (25) – I had forgotten how charmed I was by this film until I saw portions of it again at my video store (just one more good reason to not do Netflix).  It is often silly, referential in its humor, and full of its own cleverness, but in all the right ways.  I liked the non-linear way the story was told.  It could have seemed forced but it worked well for me.  I found the romance charming and the outcome was completely believable.  In the end, I loved this film for where it went and how it got there.

16-   Fantastic Mr. Fox (45) – Beautifully animated.  Funny.  Sentimental with a wink.  Biting but not in a mean-spirited way.  In other words, a Wes Anderson film.

17-   Avatar (48) – Again, another group of stellar performances.  Just kidding.  You know why this movie made the list.  Spectacle.  Nothing wrong with that.

18-   The Watchmen (3) – I don’t think this film got the appreciation it deserved.  It is my favorite “superhero” film to date.  It’s darker, more violent and with less of the school-boy morality that weights down most films in this genre.  And who wouldn’t love seeing Billy Crudup’s big blue penis?

19-   Up (16) – Pixar does it again.  This film was lovely, sweet, and beautifully animated.  It showed Pixar’s willingness to not infantilize their audience the way Disney can. This film dealt with death, old age, a miscarriage, and evil dogs (sorry, Russ, they do exist).

20-   Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon ) (57) – German film.  Black and white.  Visually stark and beautiful.  The story was slow moving but tense at times.  There were some beautifully drawn out scenes that built tension in silence much as “Still Walking” and “The Hurt Locker” did, although to less effect than either of those films.  Not for everyone.  As the woman three seats down from me said loudly when it was over, “I don’t mind long films and I don’t mind slow films but I hate long and slow films!”

21-   Crazy Heart (55) – Both Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal were fantastic; broken, scared, vulnerable.  Their characters had depth and truth to them.  The only reason this film isn’t higher on my list is that I have seen versions of this many times before.  It is basically, “The Wrestler” and that really was a much better movie.

22-   The Last Station (63) – This movie finds its place on my list almost entirely on Helen Mirren’s performance and the witty dialogue.  It was well cast and everyone did well.  The scenery was beautiful.  It was funnier than I thought it would be and quite touching in parts.  But, in the end, it was just a good movie, not a great one.

23-   Up In The Air (46) – Again, this is a film that makes the list based on the strong performances of women.  George Clooney is, well, George Clooney.  However, the two lead actresses do a great job of playing two very different women in his world.  I also liked that this movie didn’t do what I was afraid it would do.

24-   Departures (19) – A film about a man, his wife, his father… all against the back drop of Japanese funeral rites.  Unfortunately, the story was lazy and relied on convenience to give the audience a closure that felt false to me.  However, it was also a graceful movie that was sometimes stunningly beautiful.

25-   Adventureland (8) – I think the best word to describe this movie is “sweet.”  Coming-of-age, working at the amusement park during the summer of your senior year, falling in love, you get the picture.  I just really enjoy the young actor Jesse Eisenberg (“The Squid & The Whale,” “Zombieland”).  He is clearly a tweaking, basket-case in real life but I find that charming to watch on screen.  Oh, and Ryan Reynolds was also great; the guy you hate but also feel sorry for.

 

Movies I Really Enjoyed:

 

26-   Good Hair (65) – Seen after the list was sent.  Chris Rock documentary.  I’ll never see black hair the same way again.

27-   Fish Tank (62) – An interesting look at a low income, dysfunctional British family.  Hey, not so unlike an American one.  The young actress who plays the 15 year old gives a raw, angry, vulnerable performance that was a joy to watch.  I hope we see more of her.  The story fumbled a bit for me, I don’t know why.

28-   Panique au Village (A Town Called Panic) (61) – Weird French film.  Animated action figures of a cowboy, an Indian and a talking horse.  ¾ of the way through the film, a guy got up, walked out and yelled back into the theatre, “that movie sucked!”  The audience was mostly the elderly and teenagers.  Go figure.

29-   It Might Get Loud (32) – Interesting documentary.  I learned to appreciate Jack White.

30-   Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (24) – The best since “Prisoner of Azkaban.”

31-   The Damned United (64) – Seen after the list was sent.

32-   Revanche (18) – I barely remember this French film. Slow, stark, tense.  Something bad happened, I think.

33-   Sin Nombre (4) – Pretty good. Well acted but, as with Crazy Heart, I’ve seen this all before.

34-   Julie & Julia (58) – Cute but not that cute.

35-   Where the Wild Things Are (39) – Visually beautiful but too slow and emotionally empty.

36-   District 9 (30) – Follows in the vein of “Cloverfield.”  Good premise.  Stumbled at the end.

37-   Away We Go (60) – The new 30-somethings.  Anxious.  Nerdy.  Not naïve or jaded.  Hip.

38-   Star Trek (11) – Bright.  Colorful.  Fun.  But ridiculous plot holes.  Of course, who cares?

39-   Capitalism: A Love Story (37) – Glad I saw it but it didn’t tell me anything new.  Just made me mad.

40-   Coraline (2) – Beautiful animation and a clever story.

41-   The Unmistaken Child (21) – Documentary about finding the reincarnation of a Lama.

42-   The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (56) – Just like most of Gilliam.  Beautiful but unfocused.

 

Movies That Were Okay:

 

43-   Broken Embraces (54) – I’d have liked it more if I had understood all the inside jokes.

44-   Inglourious Basterds (31) – Some brilliant scenes (like the 1st) but there were parts I truly hated.

45-   Julia (41) – Required too many coincidences and unlikely, stupid choices to propel the plot.

46-   The Informant! (35) – Just a bit too odd.  But nice try.  Damon does a good job.

47-   Brothers Bloom (17) – Felt like Wes Anderson was trying too hard to make a Wes Anderson film.

48-   Moon (20) – It started out with more promise than it could deliver on.

49-   Paranormal Activity (52) – Not scary.  A bit creepy.   Not bad for such a small budget.

50-   Duplicity (5) – Run of the mill caper movie.  Roberts and Owen made me smile a couple of times.

51-   $9.99 (22) – Australian movie.  Interesting stop-gap animation.  But incoherent story.

52-   Rudo y Cursi (13) – I love Bernal and Luna but this soccer movie was aggressively average.

53-   Taking Woodstock (33) – Cute fluff.

54-   Public Enemies (27) – Just a big Hollywood exercise w/ phone-it-in performances.  Nothing new.

 

Movies I Could Have Skipped:

 

55-   Sunshine Cleaning (51) – Looked like a comedy but was really quiet somber.  Nothing worked.

56-   Gomorrah (10) – I was too excited and expected too much from this Italian film.

57-   Michael Jackson’s This Is It (53) – It was exactly what it looks like.

58-   Three Monkeys (59) – Sorry Troy.  A beautiful final scene but, overall, really really boring.

59-   The Hangover (50) – I laughed for the first half hour.  It was all down hill from there.

60-   X-Men Origins: Wolverine (7) – The next 5 films are interchangeable.

61-   Terminator Salvation (15) – Ditto

62-   G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (29) – As above.

63-   Inkheart (1) – Ibid.

64-   Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (28) – Etc.

65-   Twilight Saga: New Moon (47) – “I’m in love w/ a werewolf and a vampire. What should I do?”  Suicide.

2008

November 18, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Decade One | Leave a comment

Once again, here’s the list everyone has been screaming for: my ranking of the 64 films from 2008 that I managed to see.  I have included the viewing order in parenthesis for those who might be interested (eg Iron Man is the 11th movie I saw in 2008 but it is the 26th movie on my list).  It is worth noting that I saw 13 of the top 15 films after Thanksgiving this year.  In fact, my overall impression of the year was that it really was not a great one for film until the absolute end, when there was a sudden mad rush of great films.  Though I would never have believed it a couple of months ago (For a couple of months, I was afraid Tropic Thunder was going to be my #1film!), my top 5 films this year could compete with the best films from any year.  In fact, a couple of them are very likely to make my best of the decade list.

Though I saw fewer films overall, more importantly, I saw fewer films I hated.  Two years ago, I saw 79 films, 28 of which I did not like.  Last year, I saw 71 films and 14 were rejects.  This year, I only saw 10 films that I left the theatre thinking, “I shouldn’t have wasted my time.”  So, I think that means I am seeing fewer films because I am seeing fewer truly sucky ones (though I am seeing an awful lot of mediocre ones).

 

1-    The Wrestler  (58)

2-    Waltz with Bashir (60)

3-    Revolutionary Road (56)

4-    Entre les murs (The Class) (63)

5-    Chop Shop (54)

6-    Milk (49)

7-    Frozen River (62)

8-    Frost/Nixon (52)

9-    Tropic Thunder (33)

10- I Loved You So Long (46)

 

Other Movies I Loved:

 

11- Let the Right One In (42)

12- Slumdog Millionaire (50)

13- XXY (20)

14- Synecdoche, New York (43)

15- Changling (41)

16- The Dark Knight (25)

17- The Visitor (26)

Starting Out In the Evening (65)

18- In Bruges (3)

19- Happy-Go-Lucky (40)

20- Rachel Getting Married (37)

21- City of Men (5)

22- ParanoidPark (6)

23- Young@Heart (18)

24- Man on Wire (51)

 

Movies I Liked:

 

25- Iron Man (11)

26- Wendy & Lucy (61)

27- Bolt (45)

28- Gran Torino (55)

29- U2-3D (9)

30- Chris & Don: A Love Story (23)

31- Cloverfield (1)

32- Appaloosa (57)

33- Transsiberian (30)

34- Tell No One (29)

35- Boy A (27)

36- The Fall (35)

37- The Bank Job (10)

38- Les Chansons d’Amour (17)

 

Movies That Were Okay:

 

39- Religulous (36)

40- Mongol (19)

41- Kung Fu Panda (16)

42- Vicky Christina Barcelona (64)

43- The Order of Myths (32)

44- Quantum of Solace (44)

45- W. (38)

46- WALL-E (21)

47- Were the World Mine (47)

48- Indiana Jones (14)

49- Chicago 10 (4)

50- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (53)

51- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian  (13)

52- Frontrunners (39)

53- Roman de Gare (31)

54- Mr. Foe (48)

 

Movies I Should Have Skipped:

 

55- Burn After Reading (34)

56- Otto; Or, Up With Dead People (59)

57- The Hulk (22)

58- Mr. Lonely (15)

59- Speed Racer (12)

60- Jumper (2)

 

Movies that Uber-Completely, Absolutely, Fucking Sucked:

 

61- Hellboy II – The Golden Army (24)

62- 10,000 BC (7)

63- College Road Trip (8)

64-  Bottle Shock (28)

2007

November 18, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Posted in Decade One | Leave a comment

Like last year, I have put all 72 of the 2007 films I saw on the list.  My over all impression for the year: it was marked by amazing performances.  More than anything else, this was the year of great acting.  Two of the best performances I think I have ever seen occurred this year (see below) and several others were just breath taking to watch.  I would say that the top 7-8 performances this year were better than any performance you see most years.   Also, many more comedies made my list this year and made the top 10 (including the #2 spot), which is unusual for me as I don’ usually like comedies.  And, jesus, do I need to mention the musicals?  I fucking hate musicals and, yet, I saw 5 this year and I even liked 3 of them.  What is up with that?  Lots of foreign films, including 5 French, 2 Romanian, 2 Thai, 1 each from Korea, Ireland, Spain, Japan, and Singapore.  After a bad start, this ended up being a very strong year for films, in my opinion.  As best evidenced by the fact that I only saw 14 films I did not like this year, as opposed to 28 last year.  If that keeps up, I only see 7 bad films this year.  I can’t wait!

 

1.  No County for Old Men – While this was not as evocative a film as last year’s #1, it was grotesquely violent and deeply discomforting in really brilliant ways.  I was blown away by the performances.  Javier Bardem has created one of the great evil characters of all time.  From now on, any list of the greatest film villains will include him.  Tommy Lee Jones also gave a perfect performance.  There were scenes in this film that were flawless from start to finish (the meeting between Bardem’s character and the wife, for instance).  The final scene was controversial and the audience I saw it with did not like it.  But, they’re wrong.  It was exactly the right way to end the film; unsettled, just as the whole film had been.

2.  Romance & Cigarettes – The critics either loved this film or hated it.  I am not sure I could recommend it to very many people.  It was deeply weird and completely over the top.  It was also surprisingly foul-mouthed (for a musical).  It had a great cast (Susan Sarandon, James Gandolfini, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard, Amy Sedaris) but Christopher Walken and Bobby Cannavale stole every scene they were in with their ballsy, crazy-ass performances.  Although the best line goes to Kate Winslet (“the elephant fucks the ant inch by inch”).

3.  Control – This was the film about Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, who committed suicide just before they became famous.  The film is shot in grainy black and white and moves along slowly.  Other than an interest in the band, this film stood out because of the amazing performance of Sam Riley, a British singer with limited acting experience.  I loved everything about how he played Curtis; it was one of the top five performances of the year (but that would be another list).

4.  Superbad– Stupid.  Raunchy.  Adolescent.  I cannot justify why I loved this movie so much but I really did.  I just laughed my ass off the whole time.  How could you not love McLovin?

5.  Into The Wild – Why is Superbad higher than this film?  I guess just because I enjoyed it so damn much.  Incredible as this film was, I would not call it enjoyable.  However, I would say that everyone should see it, again, just based on a performance.

6.  Paris, Je t’aime – This film is a series of very short vignettes about Paris.  Some don’t work at all (Juliet Binoche’s, for instance) but most did on some level and several of them were clever, funny or wonderful (Gus Van Sant’s, Nick Nolte’s, Elijah Wood’s, Natalie Portman’s, just to name a few) and the last two are simply brilliant (worth watching by themselves).  This is one of the few movies I watched twice this year and I liked it even more the second time.

7.  Gone Baby Gone – Ben Affleck’s directorial debut.  Frankly, he should stay on that side of the camera.  His younger brother also does a great job in the lead role.  It is still too early in his career for me to tell if he can act or is well cast (he has always played this kind of sad-sack, worn down, seen-it-all guy).  Either way, he fits the character perfectly.  One thing the Affleck boys know is Boston and it shows here; the neighborhoods, the people, the lingo all feel authentic.  The community is as much a character in this movie as anybody is.  Add to that the suspenseful (and sometimes horrifying) story and an ending that will have you debating with your friends (“did he do the right thing or not?”) and you have a film that could have been the top of my list in other years.

8.  There Will Be Blood – This film reminded me that Daniel Day Lewis is on of the best actors alive, perhaps the best actor of his generation.  He inhabited his character in every way at every moment.  There were times when somebody would say something to him, his face would flush, the veins in his head would pop out and I would think, “holy shit, he isn’t just acting mad, he has actually gotten mad.”  The one of the best performances I have ever seen.  The film itself can be plodding, the plot wandered and sometimes it could be unnecessarily convoluted.  However, the musical score is unlike any I have heard before and that name… the title of the movie is itself a work of genius.  You wait the whole time wonder, “when?”

9.  La Vie en Rose – I resisted and resisted seeing this film because the subject matter did not interest me.  And it sounded so depressing (which it was) but I loved the film so much I watched parts over again several times.  Again, Marion Cotillard blew me away with how completely she inhabited Edith Piaf.  To see her outside of this character is to realizes how transformed she was, not just in appearance, but in every facial expression, in the way she carried her shoulders, the way she walked.  I would be hard pressed to think of a single example of better acting by an actress that I have ever seen.

10. King of Kong: Pocket Full of Quarters – There are far fewer documentaries on my list than in the past.  This one is a gem.  Touching and quite funny, it is about the quest for the highest all time score on Donkey Kong and the ridiculous (and unbelievably serious) battles that occur around the title.  I was very entertained by this film and, unlike most other film in my top 10, everyone else I know who saw it, loved it.

 

Other Movies I Loved:

 

Sweeny Todd– It is unfortunately a musical and the songs (mostly) suck but it is visually amazing.

Persepolis– Best animation this year.  Some have trivialized her story but I think her perspective has value.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days– Slow, bleak and minimalistic with scenes that will cut right through you.

Lars and the Real Girl– Some found it trite but I was touched by a realistic look at a delusional disorder.

Juno– Sarcasm in spades.  Almost too clever for its own good but I laughed out loud a lot.

The Diving Bell & The Butterfly– A story of unbelievable resiliency with scenes that will break your heart.

Waitress– A feel good movie without being saccharine.  Quite funny but gentle, not crass.  Very sweet.

The Host– Korean horror film w/slapstick humor.  Only a couple of scary scenes but fun and a good ending.

Eastern Promises– Armin Mueller-Stahl is sooo creepy.  And you get to see Viggo’s penis.  Very violent.

Wristcutters: A Love Story– What can I say?  Really weird comedy with Tom Waits.

 

Movies I Really Liked:

 

Glue– South American film.  Coming of age story.  Teens having sex in various gender combinations.

Starting Out In The Evening

Once– Cinema Verité musical.  Don’t believe me?  See it.

Zodiac

The Lookout– 3 years in a row, the “3rd Rock” kid pulls out a great performance.

Death at a Funeral

Ratatouille

Charlie Wilson’s War

Michael Clayton 

Rick & Steve: the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World– Stop motion Lego animation.  With Lego sperm.

Killer of Sheep– First release of a film made in the 70s.  No plot.  Bad acting.  Beautiful camera work.

Beowulf

A Mighty Heart

Zoo– Half acted/half documentary on men who love sex with horses.  Sensitive and penetrating.

Rocket Science– Quirky little indie comedy.  Very quirky, very indie.  It worked sometimes.

 

 

Movies I Am Glad I Saw:

 

I’m Not There– Bob Dylan film.  I didn’t get it but I get that there was definitely something to get.

Rescue Dawn

12:08 East of Bucharest– Romanian film. Very slow.  Almost funny.  Insightful idea.

Sicko

Small Town Gay Bar- Poignant personal stories.  Inspiring enough but nothing I did not know.

Tears of the Black Tiger– Weird ass Thai film.  Visually stunning.  Not so clear on the plot.

Alexis Arquette: She’s my Brother– Fascinating documentary about being transgendered in a famous family

American Gangster

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

First Snow

The Savages

Hot Fuzz– Funny but not as good as “Shaun of the Dead.”

In the Shadow of the Moon– Documentary on the Apollo missions to the moon.  Really beautiful footage.

Jesus Camp– Jesus Christ!  Them evangelicals can sure be fuuuucked up.

15– A nonlinear poetic ramble about 15 year old street gangs in Singapore.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Simpsons’ Movies– Bart’s penis.  HA HA

This is England– British punk scene in the early 80s.  Felt true to life with some natural performances.

Talk to Me

Breach

Big Bang Love, Juvenile A–  Weird Ass Japanese movie.  Seriously.  Gay prisoners.  No sex.

 

Movies I Could Have Skipped:

 

The Orphanage– Spanish film.  Should have been scarier.

Syndromes & A Century– Thai film.  Highly praised.  Too slow for me.  Way too slow.

Fracture

The Golden Compass

Transformers

The Bourne Ultimatum

Stardust

Spiderman 3– A frenzied mess.  All superhero movies should stop at #2.

The Ten

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead– Unrelentingly grim and cynical.  Mind you, that’s coming from me.

The Darjeeling Limitied

Into Great Silence– Booooooring.  Seriously.  Bor-fuck-ing.

Hairspray

Youth Without Youth– pretentious shit.  It reminded me of Barney’s movie from “The Simpsons.”

Ocean’s 13– Vapid, contradictory writing and self-congratulatory acting

300- Yeah, I’ll give it cool visuals but it was deeply bigoted.  Despite the fact that, historically, the Spartans were known for open same sex relationships, they had to make homophobic remarks about the Athenians to make the audience comfortable.  That way the safely sanitized hetero frat boys could go off and fight the evil Persian forces, who were lead by a drag queen, with a court full of queers, whose informant was a hunchback and whose army was composed of every possible ethnic group except Whites (including those who could not have possible been there, like the Japanese).  Disgusting.

 

 

 

2006

November 18, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Posted in Decade One | Leave a comment

So, here is how my list works.  I have put all 79 films I saw from 2006 in roughly my preferential order.

 

  1. Shortbus– This movie had to be #1 for me because it was the only film this year that really blew me away.  It opened my eyes to an entirely new way of looking at movies.  It took the most cynical genre in film (pornography) and made it into its opposite: optimistic, intimate, vulnerable, surprisingly funny and (most importantly) real.  What a revelation!
  2. The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief– Sadly this was a small Japanese documentary that I saw DocuFest; I doubt it will ever have wide release (sorry to tease you).  But, if you get a chance, see it.  It looks at the fascinating world of “host boys,” pretty young boys who make themselves up and sell the illusion of love to young women for large amounts of money.  It was eerie to watch the girls’ denial and to see these boys rationalizing the selling of their souls and see the effect it had on them.
  3. Brick– Many people hated this movie (especially critics) but, as you can see from my list, they were wrong.  This film both riffs on and plays homage to classic Film Noir and, for me, it worked.  The director so meticulously maintains the key elements of Noir while poking fun at them brilliantly.  The film manages its extremes well; it is both absurd and serious, goofy and complex, loveable and disturbing.  I giggled all the way through it, partly at the (very intentional) humor and partly at the audacity.
  4. Letters from Iwo Jima– I loved everything about this film.  The acting was fantastic, the pace unrelenting, and the camera work appropriately claustrophobic.  I was most taken with the lighting though: long shadows, muted colors, sharp distorted angles all gave me a powerful sense of being trapped and hopeless.  Making this film from the Japanese perspective may have been the only way to make a truly anti-war war movie; there are no good guys and bad guys, only horror.
  5. Notes on a Scandal– This film is only #5 on my list because of Judi Dench’s performance.  She was the best villain of the year and a sheer, horrible pleasure to watch.  She made me squirm every scene she was in.  Without her, the film would have been halfway down my list.  So, why is it above the Queen? Well, there is that boy too…
  6. The Queen– I am sure everyone has either heard of or seen Helen Mirrin’s performance, so there is no point in repeating the praise.  The film is sweet and touching and I find myself strangely sympathetic to the Queen but none of that by itself would get the film in my top 10.  That is all Helen’s doing.
  7. Babel– This film was a fitting completion to director Alejandro Inarritu’s trilogy (I liked Amores Perros and disliked 21 Grams).  I thought it beautifully explored the way in which cultures and languages clash in our modern world, even amongst those of similar ethnicity.  Some segments worked better than others for me and I was most drawn to Rinko Kikuchi’s performance as a deaf/mute Japanese girl; everything was caught in her facial expressions and they were brutal to watch.
  8. The Departed– The best edge-of-your-seat thriller I have seen in years.  I could hardly breathe in some scenes and, just when I thought it was over… Again and again it kept me jumping.  They should all be this good.
  9. The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros– The best word for this film is “sweet.”  It’s a Filipino film about a young gay boy falling in love.  It was the top film in the Philippines when it was released (last year?).  It was filmed in the director’s neighborhood using his home, family and friends.  In fact, the little gaggle of gay boys that Maximo runs with is actually the very real little gaggle of gay boys who run around that neighborhood.  I saw it at a film festival but the directors were hoping for an American release.  If you can, see it.  It is fun and touching and very sweet.
  10. The History Boys– This almost did not make the top 10.  Pan’s Labyrinth or Bobby almost made it.  In the end, I included it because it was such a pleasant surprise.  I had thought it would be trite and boring and trivial and, in fact, the only reason I saw it was because Richard Roper hated it so much (for silly moralizing reasons). But I had such fun at this film.  It was very witty (in the driest, geekiest sort of way) and very sentimental. As many of you know, I am such a sucker for the sentimental.  I find myself quoting lines from this film more than any other I saw this year; that alone should put in on the list.

 

The Rest, from better to worse:

Pan’s Labyrinth

Bobby

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

The Last King of Scotland

Scanner Darkly

Water

Little Children

An Inconvenient Truth

Why We Fight

Casino Royale

Little Miss Sunshine

Thank You For Smoking

Wordplay

Half Nelson

Fateless

Duck Season

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man

Whole New Thing

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

The Children of Men

Clerks II

Inside Man

Keane

Boys of Baraka

FUCK: a documentary

Summer Storm

Cars

Brothers of the Head

New York Doll

Fast Food Nation

Infamous

Unknown White Male

Monster House

Matador

Cowboy de l’Amor

The Confederate States of America

49up

For Your Consideration

Who Killed the Electric Car?

The Libertine

 

The Lives of Others

Lonesome Jim

American Hardcore

The Good Shepherd

Cache

Running With Scissors

V for Vendetta

The Illusionist

Twelve and Holding

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

X-Men: United

Superman Returns

Eragon

The Da Vinci Code

Blood Diamond

The Night Listener

Night at the Museum

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

Prairie Home Companion

Art School Confidential

Kinky Boots

The King

Al Franken: And God Spoke

Boys’ Grammar

Wondrous Oblivion

Wild Tigers I Have Known

Bubble

The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things

2005

November 18, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Posted in Decade One | Leave a comment

My Top 10 Films of 2005

1-       Mysterious Skin– Gregg Araki’s best film.  A disturbing film about the effects of child sexual abuse that builds to a final scene that was absolutely perfect.

2-       Nobody Knows– A Japanese movie based on a group of kids left by their mother to be raised by their 12 year old brother.  He does his best to hold them together while the whole thing slowly, horribly unravels.  Stunning acting from the kids.

3-       Palindromes– from the mind of Todd Solodz (“Welcome to the Dollhouse,” “Happiness”).  The young girl who is the central character is played by a half dozen different actors (including girls of various ages, a young boy, Bridgett Fonda, and an obese African American in her forties) sometimes changing back and forth within the same scene.  It is a fascinating effect that drives home the irony of the story (which, at its heart, is about how alike and different we all are).

4-       Sin City- I’m sure most of you know this one.  Horrifically violent, gruesome, disturbing and hypnotic.  I was mesmerized in every scene.  This is the first time in years a film has truly done something visually innovative.   If only all the other comic book movies looked like this.

5-       The Aristocrats– I have not laughed in years like I did in this film.  Profane and obscene beyond belief.  Even I was shocked and embarrassed by how far it went.  But, that was the point.  And, my god, whoever thought I could laugh at a mime…

6-       Munich– Spielberg’s reaches his potential as a serious filmmaker here.  The intensity of this film blew me away.  It never let up and I could scarcely breathe for most of it.   More importantly, he sheds the preaching, tawdry sentimentality and cheap tricks that bogged down “Shindler’s List” and leaves the audience in a moral quagmire that has real implications for the world today.

7-       The Squid and The Whale– I loved this film just for its honesty about people and families coming apart.  I just found so much truth in the writing and each actor was not afraid to let his/her character be so painfully human.

8-       Junebug– Added after the fact because I just saw it.  It is every bit as insightful as The Squid and The Whale.  A great film about relationships and the way depression expresses itself in different ways in different people.  The characters were all so real and well developed.

9-       Nine Lives

10-   The Mind of a Killer

11-   Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit– I loved all the “Wallace & Gromit” short films but this was the best yet.  Fantastically animated and so clever.  It is worth watching twice because so much is happening on the screen that you know some of the humor is rushing right past you.

12-   Syriana– When I first saw this film, I called it a noble mess.  But the more I sat with it, the more it grew on me.  It is convoluted and incredibly hard to follow (we had to talk through the movie for a half hour afterwards just to get clear on what we had seen) but everyone I have talked to has had animated, opinionated discussions afterwards.  That’s an accomplishment.

13-   Me and You and Everyone We Know– The movie that almost didn’t make my top ten (you can see the other choices below).  In the end, I included it because I loved it, though I cannot really say why.  It is such a quirky, endearing movie and I found the characters all loveably odd (though some people just found them odd).  I have a special place in my heart for films about the frailty of humanity and the ways we try to connect.

 

The Movies that almost made my list:

Broken Flowers– Jim Jarmusch’s latest film.  I loved the strong performances of all the actresses, the way each of their characters were unique and all related to Bill Murray in a different way.  In the end, I just felt like it was more of Bill being the new, laconic Bill.  I would have loved it if this had been the first one in the laconic Bill genre.  But, alas…

Capote– What can I say.  Fine.  It was an interesting movie but not all THAT interesting.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s performance was stellar, but then he always is and I cannot put this movie on my Top 10 list based on just that performance (even though I did that last year with “Ray”).

Transamerica- Sigh.  The year of the gay film.  I’m glad, really.  And again, Felicity Huffman deserves a standing ovation.  And the boy is cute.  And the movie is funny.  And touching.  And has a great message.  And, and, and… it was a close call.

Downfall– I don’t know how many people saw this film about Hitler’s last days.  It was fascinating and was beautifully put together.  The guy who played Hitler really threw himself into the role.

The Constant Gardener–  Well, now that I think about it, this movie really wasn’t that close to making my list.  It really is a good film but, with so many good films out there, it just didn’t make my list.  Though, really, everyone should see it.  If not for the great acting, suspense and beautiful scenery, then at least for a wake up call about what corporations are willing to do.  Don’t fool yourself that this is a fantasy story.

Crash– I agree that this is an interesting look at race relations in this country.  I also don’t buy the criticism that the film is unrealistic because these lives would not all keep intersecting—that really is just a plot device to explore the larger issues.  Well worth seeing.  Raw, painful, and thought provoking.  So, why wasn’t it in my final 10?  I don’t really have a good reason.  The next time I look at this list, I may change my mind.  Perhaps, instead of Syriana.

Hustle and Flow

 

The movies that made many people’s lists but weren’t even close to mine:

Oldboy- South Korean revenge flick.  I will give it credit for totally rejecting the U.S. revenge formula.  Still a little too much violence for it’s own sake (look, don’t bring up “SinCity” to me—it’s my damn list).

A History of Violence– Critics just seem to love this film.  Look, I’m just as shocked as everyone else that Vito can act but the movie as such a goddamned sell-out ending.  It could have been an insightful film about the way horrible secrets completely recast a family.  Instead, it decides to go the revenge movie route (see above).

2046– This was a haunting and beautiful film.  In terms of its production values, it is unforgettable.  The sets, clothing and style of the film were so unique and interesting.  However, the plot was a muddled mess and, in the end, that really was the more important thing for me.  It might not be in every movie but, in this case, it was.

Brokeback Mountain– Sigh.  The year of the gay film.  What do you want me to say?  Yes, beautiful.  Yes, bully for Heath (apparently, he can also act).  But, cliché.  Can’t we admit that?  I mean I have seen some version of this film (straight or gay) many times.  I realize that this movie pushes the boundaries of Middle America much more than any other film on my list (if for no other reason just because it will be seen).  But Middle America sucks.  So, there.

Match Point– I would agree that this is probably Woody’s best film in years.  Beautiful acting, beautiful scenery, and (oh my god) beautiful people.  But, while it seems very un-Woody, it is very Woody in one critical way—ultimately, it is entirely misogynistic.  I knew exactly who it would end half way through the film because it was the only way his film could end.  It is the ultimate boy’s fantasy—have his cake and eat it too.

King Kong– Well, please.  Why was this on anyone’s list?  It was definitely fun.  But a great film?  Hardly.

Good Night, & Good Luck– This could have made my list.  Perhaps it, Crash and Constant Gardner belong in their own special category.    Also, a very timely film.  Now if only these films (along with Munich and Syriana) could make people think…

Chronicles of Narnia– ah…. Well, I don’t really vote for movies with talking beaver.  Even ones with pretty boys.

March of the Penguins– Come on!  Have you seen this movie?  BOR-fuckin-ING!  And I like animal documentaries.  Where were the right wing nuts when “Winged Migration” was in the theatres?

 

Documentaries that I saw and would recommend (but did not put in my top 10):

Definitely see: GunnerPalace, Mad Hot Ballroom, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Grizzly Man

These were also good: Murderball, The Making of Deep Throat, RockSchool, RIZE, Following Sean

 

Movies I intended to see but didn’t and so cannot say anything about:

Keane, Everything Is Illuminated, Proof, Shop Girl, Ring of Fire

 

The Worst Movies of 2005:

1- Fear and Trembling- Racist whining from a Dutch woman bitter that she could not get ahead at a Japanese company.

2- Los Muertos- This movie achieves something I have never seen in a film before: unbelievably creepy and mind-numbingly boring at the same time.

 

Complete list, roughly in order from better to worse:

Batman Begins

Layer Cake

Lords of Dogtown

The Matador

Millions

Inside Deep Throat

Serenity

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Corpse Bride

Proof

Thmbsucker

Zathura

The Upside of Anger

Rent

Legend of Zorro

Aeon Flux

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Flight Plan

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

War of the Worlds

 

Total Seen =65

2004

November 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Posted in Decade One | Leave a comment

My Top 10 Films of 2004

  1. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring             

This Korean film made the top of my list, in part, because it is so unlike anything else I saw this year.  Visually stunning, poetic and imbued with a sense of stillness completely lost on American filmmakers.  This simple, quiet film is a treatise on Buddhist notions of life, death and rebirth.  Its magic came in its ability to let each moment sit, without boundary, explanation or a need to rush onward.

  1. Sideways

Well, we all know this film.  In many ways this movie reminds me of one of my favorites from last year, “Lost in Translation.”   I was moved by the truthfulness of these characters- so painfully human.  Some people I spoke with hated them but I was deeply moved by all o f them.  The acting was so present and genuine and the dialogue was masterful: funny, heartbreaking and real.  The discussion between Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen about why they like wine was the best conversation in a film this year.  Everything was said but not spelled out.  That writing takes skill.

  1. Machinist

This film could not be more different than my first two choices.  Very dark.  Creepy.  Haunting.  It stars Christian Bale (“Empire of the Sun”, “Henry V”, “American Psycho”, “Velvet Goldmine” and the new “Batman Beyond”), who gives a stunning performance.  He lost 1/3 of his body weight to play this role and he looks like a ghost.  He plays a man haunted by something that happened a year ago and he has not slept since.  Weird things start happening and you don’t know what is or is not real.  Watch carefully, everything means something- random quotes, t-shirts, the colors of things.  Bale’s performance should have been up for an Oscar; he could run circles around Leo DiScowly-Face.

  1. Tarnation

In the “Year of the Documentary,” this is my favorite one by far.  Again, so unlike anything else out there.  This is a very personal and heartbreaking film.  It chronicles one boys struggle with his mother’s mental illness, his very dysfunctional family and his own sexuality.  He began filming his life when he was 11 years old and he has spliced those films together to make this movie.  He could so easily milk the audience for sympathy but never does.  His love for his mother permeates the film and makes the images of her all the more haunting.   Probably the only movie last year that brought me to tears.  The last image lingers with me; I think of it constantly.

  1. The Corporation

Another great documentary and far more traditional than “Tarnation.”  This one takes on the concept of the multi-national corporation, telling us its history and implications.  This film opened my eyes and gave him more to think about than any of the bigger name documentaries.  A must see for all social activists.

  1. Napoleon Dynamite

Brilliant!  The funniest movie I saw this year.  Made by a couple of Mormon boys from Idaho.  This film is clever and unbelievably weird.  It apparently is developing quite a cult following amongst teens.  It also has the best, completely non-manipulative, most unabashedly sentimental ending of any fictional film I saw this year.  If you see it on DVD, check out the filmmaker’s comments (this guy is a complete nerd himself, he basically just made a movie of his life).  Also, check out the kickball sequence in the extras.  Truly brilliant.

  1. The Woodsman

Be warned, I like dark films but this movie was the most difficult film I have seen in a long time.  I was so uncomfortable in one scene that I contemplated leaving the theater.  The movie deals with pedophilia and sexual abuse and does not pull punches.  It doesn’t demonize or valorize Kevin Bacon’s character.  This is what I loved about the film: I felt sorry for him and creeped out by him at the same time.  That is not an easy thing to manage.  All the principal actors did a great job.  I was especially taken by Kyra Sedgwick.  She seemed transformed by this character (miles away from “Phenomenon”).   The film does not look for easy answers and never resolves the questions it asks.  I respect a film that is willing to look so unblinkingly at a controversial subject.  If I have one criticism (and it is a serious one), it would be that the film implies that the world is crawling with men preying on young kids (an irresponsible premise that just feeds our culture of hysteria).  However, I am still moved by the films ambivalence about its subject matter; compare the metaphors of the woodsman and the bird watcher.  Are you so sure you know where the film stands on Kevin Bacon’s character?

  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

My god, the mind of Charlie Kaufman!  This film is woefully under-represented in Oscar nominations, probably because it came out early in the year.  The concept for this film could have been done so badly (think Nicholas Cage & Meg Ryan, Goo-Goo Dolls, etc.).  Instead, we have a twisted, bleak death-plunge down the rabbit hole.  It is not a perfect film and stumbles several times, losing its focus.  However, the ending is so beautifully constructed and so bleak in its implications (Kaufmanesque, I think, should be the term), that it ultimately redeemed any flaws I thought the film had.

  1. Supersize Me

Another great documentary.  Funny, interesting and creative.  Morgan Spurlock really tapped into something with this film.  It cuts to the quick of American culture on so many levels.  I entered the theater somewhat jaded; I did not think this film could tell me anything I did not know.  I was wrong.  And I am not referring to Morgan’s shocking physical deterioration (I am still dubious of that b/c it smacks too much of Hollywood melodrama).  Rather, I was moved by how central fast food has become to so many people’s lives.  It really brought home the cultural divide to me.  Watch this movie with “Corporation.”  The perfect double feature.

  1. Ray

Again, a movie everyone knows about and most of you have probably seen.  I wrestled with putting it on the list.  I don’t really think Ray Charles’ life, brilliant though he was, warrants a movie.  But the movie was full of lush images, beautiful period sets and nice touches.  All of that would not be nearly enough but for Jamie Foxx’s performance (most surprising simply because it was Jamie Foxx).  I have seen many actors play someone famous (Malcolm X, Nixon, Jim Morrison, Andy Kaufman), none seemed as lost in the character as Jamie was.  His performance alone put this movie on my list.

 

Honorable Mentions

Million Dollar Baby: the best film not in my top 10.  Well acted.  Nicely directed.  I really enjoyed the dynamic between Morgan Freeman & Clint Eastwood.  I just didn’t like the ending.  No, not because it was too dark.  It wasn’t true to Clint’s character.  Like the reviewers all say, this is not the movie you think it is.  It’s not some sappy, crappy Rocky/Hoosiers/Karate Kid stinky pile of celebrity feces.  It looks like that is exactly what it is going to be for the first ½ of the film but then it all gets interesting.  I want to be clear, it really is a very good film.  It almost made my list.  I just felt cheated by an ending that was too easy, too pat.  Many people will strongly disagree with me.  You are probably right.  Sometimes I disagree with my own opinion of this film.  But I’d enjoy arguing about it.

Shaun of the Dead: oh, lord, this is a funny film.  I do love British humor.  Many, many people will find it dumb and boring.  Fair enough.  It is not for everyone.  But if you like dry wit and absurdism, don’t miss this.

The Motorcycle Diaries & Hotel Rwanda: interesting, true stories.  Well acted but ultimately too hollywoodized.  Hotel Rwanda in particular tells an important story but they could have just let up on the score a bit.

Vera Drake:  Beautifully acted and, as above, an important story to tell.  But I felt detached, always kept at bay by the movie.  I realize these people are British but I’m fairly sure they have emotions.

Undertow & Mean Creek: Kids doing creepy things.  Well-acted.  Visually interesting (especially “Undertow”).  Worth seeing.

OutFoxed:  The little documentary that almost could.  VERY rudimentary graphics (I mean, as in, Powerpoint graphics).  However, they do a good job of making their case.  Rupert Murdock is an asshole.  Go figure.

Coffee & Cigarettes: 3 brilliant skits, unfortunately the rest were uninspired or worse.  If you rent it, fast forward to the ones with Cate Blanchett, Alfred Molina, and the last one.

Best closing credits: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Too bad the rest of the movie is shit.  But, really, those closing credits are fantastic.  I would watch them all over again.

Most misunderstood movie: The Mudge Boy.  The film premiered at the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in 2003, which is when I saw it.  It opened this year to limited release and, sadly, was hated by most critics.  It even ended up on a couple worst films list (Rolling Stone and The New York Time’s A.O. Scott).  Shows you what critics know.  This movie was odd and hard to figure out but I loved it.  I just connected to Emile Hirsch’s chicken-geeking farm boy.  What can I say?

The Worst Movies of 2004:

  1. What the Bleep Do We Know?

Indeed.  I kept asking that question throughout this wholly unwatchable film.  An even better question is, “who the bleep do they think they are?”  Foisting this pseudo-scientific, new age spiritualist bullshit on us and then trying to pass it off as insight ought to be a capital offense.  Think your way out of cancer, you know you can.  Jesus, people make me crazy.  And, speaking of Jesus…

  1. The Passion of the Christ

The Porno of the Christ is more like it.  This is just titillation and cheap thrills for believers.  It was a giant, 3 hour, right-wing circle-jerk.  The worst film that I never bothered to see.  I just have never really enjoyed snuff films.

  1. The Village

Poor, poor M.Night.  For a minute and half, he was a brilliant filmmaker.  One perfect film.  And then the long, horrifyingly slow descent into irrelevance.  Arrogance is a bitch.

  1. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Jim Carrey’s Series of Unfortunate Characters.  Ya know, the books don’t actually revolve around him.  Not that you would ever know that.

 

The rest I saw, roughly in order from better to worse.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The Incredibles

Maria Full of Grace

GardenState

I Heart Huckabees

Bad Education

The Clearing

I’m Not Scared

Dodgeball

Hero

House of Flying Daggers

The Aviator

I, Robot

Goodbye, Lenin

Saved!

Birth

The Grudge

Hellboy

Collateral

The Sea Inside

Closer

Monsieur Ibrahim

Kinsey

Shrek2

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Spartan

Spider-Man 2

The Bourne Supremacy

Fahrenheit 9/11

The Merchant of Venice

Day After Tomorrow

Kill Bill, Vol. 2

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

The Manchurian Candidate

Shark Tales

The Polar Express

The Stepford Wives

A Very Long Engagement

The Terminal

 

Total Seen =62 Films

2003

November 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Posted in Decade One | Leave a comment

The Ones I Loved:

  1. Lost in Translation
  2. MysticRiver
  3. City of God
  4. Winged Migration
  5. Triplets of Belleville
  6. Raising Victor Vargas
  7. In America
  8. The Mudge Boy
  9. The Station Agent
  10. Whale Rider
  11. Thirteen
  12. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
  13. Elephant
  14. Northfork

 

The rest, roughly in order:

Down With Love

Pieces of April

Girl With the Pearl Earrings

Finding Nemo

House of Sand and Fog

Pirates of the Caribbean

Bend It Like Beckham

Dirty Pretty Things

Identity

The Fog of War

Holes

A Mighty Wind

The Quiet American

Shattered Glass

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

Kill Bill, Vol. 1

Master and Commander

Big Fish

21 Grams

Brother Bear

The Last Samurai

Daredevil

Hulk

Matrix, Reloaded

The Matrix, Revolutions

 

Total Seen =39 films

2002

November 18, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Posted in Decade One | Leave a comment

1- Y Tu Mama Tambien

2- The Hours

3- Monsoon Wedding

4- Lord of the Rings: The TwoTowers

5- About A Boy

6- Lovely and Amazing

7- Gangs of New York

8- Igby Goes Down

9- Frida

10- The Deep End

11- The Bourne Identity

12- One Hour Photo

 The rest, roughly in order:

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

The Good Girl

Insomnia

Spider-Man

25th Hour

Undercover Brother

The Importance of Being Earnest

Lilo & Stitch

Bowling for Columbine

The Ring

Spirited Away

Donnie Darko

About Schmidt

Adaptation

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Chicago

Catch Me If You Can

Red Dragon

Men in Black II

Star Trek: Nemesis

Die Another Day

Eight-Legged Freaks

8 Crazy Nights

Analyze That

SunshineState

Punch Drunk Love

Road to Perdition

Panic Room

Ice Age

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Minority Report

Signs

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

The Worst film: The Time Machine

Total Seen = 46

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